Great Awakening - The Great Awakening was a series of...

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The Great Awakening was a series of revivals that began in Puritan New England in the 1730s, and spread throughout the colonies, changing people’s views about religion and their place in society. Largely the actions of itinerant preachers like England’s George Whitefield and Massachusetts’s Jonathan Edwards, the Awakening sprang from the roots of the Wesleyan revivals taking place in England. Whitefield started his work in Philadelphia and then New England, where he spoke to audiences upwards of 20,000. The revival was not only a religious event, but entertainment as well. His gestures and emotional delivery got the attention of his audiences and stood in stark contrast to the staid, serious predetermination of the Puritan ministers. People attracted by Whitefield’s revivals left the traditional Puritan and Anglican denominations in large numbers. Jonathan Edwards was a Puritan minister who joined the Awakening and gave it an American voice. In 1741 he preached his most famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Edwards was not as flamboyant as Whitefield, but he was effective, as his sermon became one of the most widely printed documents of the period. The Great Awakening led to the founding of new denominations and presented people with new ways of thinking about religious authority, as religion and the law were closely tied in Puritan New England. Although not a cause of the rise of revolutionary thought in America, the very questioning of authority was a necessary step in a long line of events that led to revolutionary thought. How, in the face of growing secularization of government and society, could the series of revivals collectively known as the “Great Awakening” have any effect on the thoughts of people in the colonies in the decades preceding the Revolution? Although it was a series of highly localized revivals, the Awakening, due to touring preachers like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards who went to almost every colony, became the first truly “national” event. It also acted to provide people with an “American” identity, distinct from those brought over from Europe. In the face of increasing suspicion of England, due to heightened economic controls, the change in political beliefs became a shorter step with the onset of the “Great Awakening.” Many of these political beliefs which led to the American Revolution had their roots in colonial religious belief. Opposition of the traditional English aristocracy attracted widespread support in America because they revived the traditional concerns of a Protestant culture that had always been influenced by Puritanism. It has been argued by many historians that New England Puritanism and the eighteenth century “Great Awakening” were the framework into which the idea of Revolution first took shape. To many historians, the religious background of the American people, characteristically distinct from European religiosity, formed the mind set from which revolutionary ideology grew. Yet to assert that the “Great Awakening” arose in the early-eighteenth century out of a solely American context and led
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This note was uploaded on 12/15/2009 for the course SOCIAL STU 129348437 taught by Professor Phalange during the Spring '09 term at Aberystwyth University.

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Great Awakening - The Great Awakening was a series of...

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